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Quick Guide to Understanding Hodgkin Lymphoma

Written by MSD in the Philippines

There are over 100 types of cancers according to the National Cancer Institute. Many are familiar
with cancers of the breast, lung, brain, skin, and leukemia. But some types of cancers are
less known such as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL) which is more likely to occur among the younger

What is Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Also known as Hodgkin disease, Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in the
lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is responsible for keeping waste out of the immune
system and helps the body fight infection. Cancer cells start to grow in white blood cells, called
the lymphocytes.

HL can be categorized as either classic Hodgkin lymphoma or nodular lymphocytic predominant
Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL). Tests are administered to identify the type of HL, based on the
cells involved, the patient’s condition and the cancer’s behavior.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are 8,500 new cases of HL in 2018 and an estimated
1,050 deaths due to this cancer. It is more common among young adults aged 15 to 19.
The median age of people with HL is 39.

What are the common signs and symptoms of Hodgkin Lymphoma?

According to Healthline, one of the telling signs of HL is the swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph
nodes are located in different parts of the body. The following areas should be regularly
checked for lumps:

  • On the side of the neck
  • In the armpit
  • Around the groin

Aside from lumps, other observable symptoms include:

  • Night sweats
  • Itchy skin
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Persistent cough, trouble breathing, and chest pain
  • Pain in the lymph nodes after consuming alcohol

Having these symptoms does not always mean that a person is positive for HL. However, these
signs can be indicative that something is not right in your body and you need to find out what it
is through testing and diagnosis.

Who are at high risk of developing Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Certain conditions, activities and lifestyles may increase a person’s risk of developing Hodgkin
lymphoma. These risk factors are:

  • Age – HL is often diagnosed in people between 15 to 40 years old, and those over 55. If
    you belong in these age groups and you observe any of the symptoms described above,
    never take any chances. Get yourself checked.
  • Family history – If any of your immediate family members had a case of lymphoma, you
    have a higher risk of developing HL.
  • Gender – Most patients diagnosed with HL are males.
  • Medical history of Epstein-Barr infection – People who had an illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) – a member of the herpes virus family – are more likely to develop
    HL because a proportion of Hodgkin disease tumors harbor the EBV, according to the
    National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Is there a way to detect Hodgkin Lymphoma?

If a patient observes some of the signs and symptoms enumerated above, and one or more of
the risks mentioned are applicable, he/she should visit the doctor for consultation and testing.
Like with other types of cancer, doctors do diagnostic tests to assess the condition of the patient
and to be able to recommend the best treatment plan. For HL patients, here are the following
procedures for diagnosis:

  • Physical exam
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging tests
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan
  • Blood test

Undergoing diagnostic tests will help the patient get a better understanding of his/her condition
and course of action moving forward.

What are available treatments for Hodgkin Lymphoma?

Hodgkin lymphoma is almost always treatable given early diagnosis and immediate action. The
following are treatments available for patients:

  • Chemotherapy – A type of treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is administered
    through the bloodstream and can reach almost all areas of the body.
  • Radiation therapy – uses high-energy beams like X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy – also a drug treatment that works by activating the immune system to
    kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy – cancer cells are checked for mutations and doctors recommend
    treatment to target the specific mutation. Before a patient is subjected to any treatment plan, doctors always evaluate the following:
  • Type of cancer
  • Cancer stage (size and metastasis)
  • Medical history and overall health condition

To know more about cancer treatment costs in the Philippines, you must consult your doctor or Find a Doctor.

The goal of any cancer treatment plan is to destroy as many cancer cells as possible and bring the disease to remission. At the same time, doctors aim for the improvement of the patient’s quality of life throughout the treatment process.

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